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Jun 21, 2020 - 1:06:23 PM
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348 posts since 12/17/2009

Hey all,
Last time I posted on here asking for advice on possibly converting a RK-R36 to an archtop, just so I have that option next to my flatheads and to use a project/flight banjo.

Well, since then I have in fact acquired a 36 at a great price and have had some fun modding and messing with it. About the time I found this banjo, a buddy of mine was getting rid of a 70s StewMac flathead to archtop conversion ring so I got lucky and snatched it up.

Aside from swapping out rings, I’ve been experimenting with parts I have lying around just to see how good this inexpensive banjo could get with some love and care. So far I have to say.... I’m VERY impressed with this thing. The sound seems well balanced, fit and finish looks pretty good, I'm a big fan of the style 1 look and even after purchasing the ring, the total cost of this was under 1k (which for a full time musician is a BIG deal!)

Have a listen and see what you think.
https://youtu.be/mZukl8Rw0zY

Overall I’m very pleased with how it turned out, but I am still wondering what else I can do to make this feel like a premium instrument. I’m considering taking some sandpaper to the edge of the resonator and get the black paint off it so more of the binding and wood would show through, though I am curious if anyone else has done that and know what the result would look like.

What should I try next? What have you done with yours?


Edited by - Yellowhouseroad on 06/21/2020 19:16:21

Jun 21, 2020 - 1:51:24 PM
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10926 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Yellowhouseroad

I’m considering taking some sandpaper to the edge of the resonator and get the black paint of it so more of the blinding and wood would show through, though I am curious if anyone else has done that and know what the result would look like.


If you mean the top surface of the resonator lip, I would not expect there to be any more binding to expose. The binding is about .06-inch thick. On models I've seen, the full thickness of binding seems to be exposed.  As to exposing more wood -- the wood under that black coat is most likely very plain and light. You're going to end up needing to color it. Even after doing that, it's not going to look the same as the mahogany veneer.

Frankly, I like -- and prefer -- a black resonator lip, even when the rest of the resonator is a different color.  My first banjo came that way. I did it on at least one of my two parts banjos. And when I refinished my 70s Gibson, I darkened the lip as a way of hiding bad spots.

Not a whole lot more to dress these up.  Maybe upgrade the tuners to Gotoh and change the buttons. Maybe amber or ivoroid.

Edited to add: Sounds great!

Hard Times on the RK-36 with flathead-to-archtop conversion ring

Edited by - Old Hickory on 06/21/2020 13:55:19

Jun 21, 2020 - 3:30:12 PM
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Players Union Member

RioStat

USA

5230 posts since 10/12/2009

Banjo sounds and looks real good, David. Very nice pickin' too!

I've got an RK 35 that I turned into an archtop, Sullivan/FQM archie ring, and a Cooperman rim.

I'm a fan of the RK's

Jun 21, 2020 - 5:56:42 PM
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pjfolino

Australia

652 posts since 9/20/2011

Sounds great - and nice playing!

I must say, my stock RK35 (with a Kat Eyz bridge) sounds pretty awesome too. Great banjos.

Jun 22, 2020 - 9:19:09 AM

348 posts since 12/17/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Old Hickory

If you mean the top surface of the resonator lip, I would not expect there to be any more binding to expose. The binding is about .06-inch thick. On models I've seen, the full thickness of binding seems to be exposed.  As to exposing more wood -- the wood under that black coat is most likely very plain and light. You're going to end up needing to color it. Even after doing that, it's not going to look the same as the mahogany veneer.

Frankly, I like -- and prefer -- a black resonator lip, even when the rest of the resonator is a different color.  My first banjo came that way. I did it on at least one of my two parts banjos. And when I refinished my 70s Gibson, I darkened the lip as a way of hiding bad spots.

Not a whole lot more to dress these up.  Maybe upgrade the tuners to Gotoh and change the buttons. Maybe amber or ivoroid.


Thanks for the input, I suppose I can live with the black paint.

I suppose there isn't a whole lot more I can do before it becomes a "parts banjo." I've already swapped out the stock tuners with Rickard 10:1s, changed the bridge to a Scorpion or a Dotson, added a banjolit armrest and threw on some cheat-a-key Dtuners. About the only thing I can think of changing at this point is installing a different rim, or maybe a maple resonator to get a little more brightness.

Oh the possibilities...

Jun 22, 2020 - 10:06:14 AM

10926 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Yellowhouseroad
About the only thing I can think of changing at this point is installing a different rim, or maybe a maple resonator to get a little more brightness.

 

I believe the rims are made of North American maple. I don't know how different they are than U.S.-made rims -- not counting those made from old wood, recovered wood, roasted wood, or any of the specialty woods.

As to maple resonator -- Gill resonators have multi-layer poplar backs with outer veneer and built-up sidewalls with an inside layer of maple. The thickness of the center layer of poplar and outer layer (or veneer) of finish wood depends on whether you choose his modern or pre-war style.  Cox resonators have all-maple sides (presumably with veneer). Don't know about the backs.  Point is, if you want more maple in a resonator than what you see on the outside, be sure to ask before you buy.

Change the rim and resonator after changing the tone ring and it's not really an RK-36 any more. I realize you got the banjo at a good price, but at a certain point you're not far from the same investment that could have got you something very good on the used market.  Now, if you sell off the parts you're not using, that's a different story.

Jun 22, 2020 - 1:08:02 PM

KCJones

USA

788 posts since 8/30/2012

Fults 1934 straightline tailpiece?

Custom MOP/Abalone truss rod cover?

Custom headstock inlay to replace the (imo) unattractive square Recording King inlay?

Custom head art?

Speed neck?

Heal carving?

Just some ideas for relatively cheap mods that won't turn it into a parts banjo.

Jul 21, 2020 - 9:41:33 PM

348 posts since 12/17/2009

Actually you know what I’m really tempted to do?.... Give that chrome plating a brushed nickel finish. Seems easy enough according to youtube.

Jul 22, 2020 - 1:52:50 PM

2536 posts since 4/16/2003

"Overall I’m very pleased with how it turned out, but I am still wondering what else I can do to make this feel like a premium instrument."

In my opinion... nothing.
Is it what it is. And it's pretty good for what it is.
Just... play and enjoy it.

If by "premium instrument" you mean something like Ralph's RB-5, well... buy a Gibson RB-5.

The RK is a fine instrument, but you're only going to be able to take it "so far"...

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